It's almost here folks. Atlanta United's first playoff game since 2019 is just around the corner, and this past week has been a bit of an oddity in terms of news. This shorter edition, then, is atypical in that sense. While the player signings and golazos of the normal year and news always hit the highlights, some of the admin moves that Atlanta made this week are just as important. With that being said, here are all the things you need to know about Atlanta United this week!
1. Atlanta United signs Rob Valentino and Carlos Bocanegra to new contracts
In some way, everyone saw some form of this news coming. Earlier in the year Rob Valentino was actually interviewed for a coaching position after his outstanding turnaround of the team when Heinze was sacked. And since the 2018 MLS Cup, Carlos Bocanegra has been under increased scrutiny as members of that winning team have been transferred away and other signings have been less than stellar.
Rob Valentino signs multiyear contract with #ATLUTD as Assistant Coach.— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) November 16, 2021
This one was always going to be well deserved. It's already been extremely documented how the man grabbed the wheel and righted the ship after the debacle that was the first half of 2021. Rob brought fun and freedom back to Atlanta's players, and the results on the field was almost immediate. Signing him back on is a huge show of confidence and one the players will appreciate.
It's unclear if anyone was sure Bocanegra would be back after his contract ran out. All signs point to this second half of 2021 being a saving grace in many ways, not the least of which were because of the signings of Luiz Araujo and Gonzalo Pineda. If those acquisitions are a sign of things to come from Carlos, then hopefully the dark ages of suspect transfers is over. Plus, it's doubtful Darren Eales would have signed off if he thought otherwise. Bocanegra also mentioned in his statement after the renewal about working with Pineda moving forward, "I'm really excited about working together with Gonzalo, who shares our strategic vision for this club’s future." That's low-key a big deal, because it's always vexing when there is a disconnect between the head coach and his play style and the person bringing in new talent. They should always be on the same page.
Congrats to both Carlos and Rob!
2. Miles Robinson a finalist for Defender of the Year
This should be a given. It can't be said enough how superb Miles has become. He's an integral part of both Atlanta United and the USMNT, which the latter found out the hard way when they drew Jamaica 1-1 after outplaying Mexico 2-0. Miles played against Mexico, and did not against Jamaica...coincidence? He received double yellows against Mexico and was sent off late in the match, and was a crucial part of shutting down some of El Tri's attacking talent in some sketchy moments.
Speaking of the red card, it actually worked out well for Atlanta because it got him back to the training ground early. The U.S. should have easily beat Jamaica without him, but they in fact almost (and probably should have) lost. Now, that isn't to say Miles is the only key to the national team, but he is consistently showing how he solidifies their defense. There is no reason he shouldn't win Defender of the Year.
No doubt in our minds— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) November 15, 2021
An incredible year for @_MilesRobinson_ and he's far from finished.
Also, never forget this amazing video from Darren and Brad about Miles.
Big week for @_milesrobinson_!!— Darren Eales (@DEalesATLUTD) November 12, 2021
1) Huge match tonight @USMNT vs
2) Scores 1st @MLS goal for @ATLUTD
Here’s a heartfelt tribute video from @bguzan & the club! https://t.co/6ImGjMYZKM pic.twitter.com/I8mAsteUqR
3. Paulo Neto and Vini Leiva announced for the 2022 e-sports team
As a fan of video games and eSports dating back to Halo 2 in MLG, this has always been fascinating to me. Having these guys representing the Five Stripes is outstanding, and you can watch below as they obliterate Darren and Gonzo in a FIFA match. 2022 looks to be a good year in terms of eMLS for Atlanta United, and of course it's cool to see Paulo back again.
Those are the main highlights of the week as the team prepares for Yankee Stadium on Sunday. As part of that preparation, they have painted
tennis court lines baseball field lines small soccer pitch lines to practice in. Here's hoping they've built a solid gameplan to play in such a restricted space, which will most certainly consist of making sure the midfield is completely switched on at all times.
Next week's edition of this article could be celebratory or angry, but it's worth remembering that it seems like bright days are ahead after this rough 2020 and early 2021. Vamos.